Home > Projects > Trio for Violin, Marimba, and Cello (2006)

To my great delight, Joanna and Libby asked me to write a processional for their wedding.

The wedding featured a "pop ensemble" and a "classical ensemble". The classical ensemble was a trio: violin, cello, and marimba. I thought this was a great combination, and a treat for me since I hadn't written for marimba before. John, the marima player, was helpful enough to give me a tutorial in his instrument and answer all my questions about it.


I don't have a live recording, but I have a decent version generated using MIDI instruments. Its main drawback is that the marimba uses only single strokes, when it should be sustained almost everywhere.

PDFs of the score and parts:


For other pieces, I have found it helpful to create a scale (or, for theory geeks, a set) and then write a melody using only that scale. I took it a bit farther with this piece. I came up with a scale that spanned two octaves, and then repeated it to cover five octaves (the range of a marimba). I then limited myself to using only those notes, not just for the melody, but for the entire piece. I actually put masking tape on the keys I was "allowed" to use to help me keep it straight.

I generated the scale using a Perl script. The idea was to find a scale where all adjacent notes were separated by a half-step or whole-step, but that wasn't a standard major or minor scale. I did this by finding, for each possible scale, the transposition that put the most notes on white keys. I then chose scales which required a lot of black keys. That is, if it was possible to transpose the scale so that it could be played mostly on white keys (like a standard major or minor scale), I rejected it.

From the results, I chose a scale that basically switches back and forth between two tonal centers, one based on F/C and the other on D-flat/A-flat.

In my experience, an important part of composition is adding constraints. Staring at a sheet of score paper or a piano keyboard with absolutely no limits is too overwhelming. Although I felt silly putting tape on my keyboard, I was generating melodies quickly once I did so. Later, when I decided to try to use the same limitation for the accompaniment as well, I gnashed my teeth a few times when a certain chord voicing I wanted was not available. But in general it sped things up by limiting my options.


Joanna and Libby, for including me in their wedding in this way.

My family, and especially Noah, for being patient (or asleep) during my late night hours working on this.

Rose, John, and Derek, for a delightful hour of rehearsal and a wonderful performance.